As the BirdLife International website (and, being even-handed, countless others) states, this coming weekend has been designated World Migratory Bird Day:
This coming weekend, thousands of people are attending World Migratory Bird Day events which highlight migratory birds in crisis. BirdLife Partners around the world are celebrating bird migration, whilst also stressing the plight of some the world’s most threatened species.
World Migratory Bird Day is a global initiative to raise awareness for the need to conserve all migratory birds. Events range from bird festivals, education programmes and birdwatching trips to watch bird migration in action.
Around 11% of migratory birds are Globally Threatened or Near Threatened according to BirdLife on behalf of the IUCN Red List. Of these, 31 are classified as Critically Endangered. Examples include, Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus in Europe, Sociable Lapwing Vanellus gregarius in the Middle East and Africa, Chinese Crested Tern Sterna bernsteini in Asia, Orange-bellied Parrot Neophema chrysogaster in the Pacific, and Kittlitz’s Murrelet Brachyramphus brevirostris in the Americas.
May is actually a busy month for wildlife-related ‘Days’ (if you’ll pardon the slightly confusing terminology). I (and a few others I suspect) slept in on May 2nd’s International Dawn Chorus Day. Sadly we’re already at the end of Be Kind to Animals Week (yeah, I missed it too) but here in the UK we can at least now look forward to the hopefully-named Be Nice to Nettles Week (or console ourselves with the eagerly anticipated National Doughnut Week). I don’t suppose British Petroleum will want attention drawn to this year’s World Turtle Day on May 23rd, and no doubt pet shops around the globe will be rubbing their hands in anticipation of World Parrot Day which is celebrated every year on May 31st.
On a truly global note May 22nd is the designated highpoint of the United Nations’ International Year of Biodiversity: 2010 is the year that ‘celebrates the diversity of life on Earth, including every plant, animal and micro-organism’ (though the very fact that we apparently need a designated year to celebrate the diversity of life on earth is in itself an admittance that most of the time the vast majority of people couldn’t give a rat’s arse about biodiversity, even if we humans depend on it for our own existence).
If we’re busy doing something else in May, by the way, we can always plan our first weekend in June around UNEP’s World Environment Day and just merge all those other celebratory days into one happy and deeply joyous occasion…
Oh, look, I’m sorry I’m being so deeply cynical but I’ve woken up to a hung Parliament here in the UK, and lots of people on the radio whining loudly about how they were denied access to the party as the polling-stations closed at 22:00 while they queued outside. The damn stations opened at 08:00! Just how much time do people need to get out of the pub, away from the TV, finish off their evening meal, get enough petrol in the car to drive the 800m to the nearest ballot box etc etc?
About the same amount of time so very, very many people need to realise just how close we are to messing up the planet in a way that could SERIOUSLY alter the way society operates I would guess. Mass extinction, food production, resistance to infection, fresh water, the very air we breathe. Everything is changing, whilst we wait for ‘EastEnders’ to finish on the TV before deciding to stroll down the road and cast our vote.
I can hear the radio discussing ‘the end of life as we know it’ now:
Whiny public person: “I wanted to vote to save the bees but the place was all shut up and I couldn’t get in to do anything.”
Radio bloke: “Oh dear…”
Whiny public person: “And now there are no bees, no pollination, and we’re all going to starve, and I’m really cross.”
Radio bloke: “Oh dear…”
Whiny public person: “Why didn’t someone tell us what was going on?”
Radio bloke: “Well, we did have all those days in May, and the polling-station has been open for some years now…”
Whiny public person: “Are you trying to say it’s my fault. Go scr*w yourself you patronising dumbass…”
Too harsh? Of course not. You know it and I know it.
So what will be achieved by one – or all – of these days?
I hate to say it, but the answer is NOTHING. Until attendance at World Migratory Bird Day events is made compulsory, until schools are obliged to designate one day in May as ‘Pupil Environmental Awareness Day’, or until one of the major political parties in Europe, North America, or Asia puts wildlife in front of the electorate and spells out exactly what will happen to them when biodiversity crashes absolutely nothing will happen.
No, my prediction is that despite everything that the heroic types at conservation organisations try to organise, the world will still be in the pub or in front of the TV, complaining that nothing is ever done – and whining like babies when they get in the queue too damn late to do anything to save the planet they’d never noticed before…